Bill 23: Unveiling Ontario’s new More Homes Built Faster Act
By Frank Bourgault and Wafa Khan
The Ontario government recently unveiled new legislation that is intended to address Ontario’s housing crisis. The More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 (the “Act”), which was introduced on October 25, 2022, proposes to amend several acts cumulating in (what many hope will be) a more streamlined land approval process in Ontario.
There is much to consider in the Act, which must still be passed. If passed, the Act’s true impact may not be known for some time. At this point, we should take a moment to consider certain important issues that the Act attempts to address:
1. Promoting greater density
Amendments to the Planning Act would allow for up to three units to be constructed on most single residential lots without the need for a municipal by-law amendment. Such units could take various forms, be it contained within one residential dwelling or separate structures such as an in-law suite. These new units would be exempt from development charges and parkland dedication fees.
2. Closer access to public transit
Additional proposed amendments to the Planning Act would help adjust zoning requirements in order to ensure that
a. planned minimum density targets close to major transit stations are met; and
b. construction can begin sooner by reducing approval timelines.
This proposed change would theoretically encourage construction of sustainable and complete communities near provincially funded transit expansion projects. Municipalities would then have one year to update their zoning by-laws to meet new minimum density goals.
3. Freezing and reducing government charges
In an effort to increase new home construction and reduce costs, the Act proposes to amend the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act and the Conservation Authorities Act to freeze, reduce, and introduce new exemptions with respect to fees. This includes:
a. temporary freezing of conservation authority fees for development permits;
b. reducing development charges for rental construction; and
c. exempting municipal development charges, parkland dedication levies, and community benefit charges for select affordable housing, non-profit housing developments, inclusionary zoning units.
4. Changes to site plan control
Under the Act, residential development proposals of up to ten (10) residential units would be exempt from site plan control. Furthermore, exterior designs and architectural details would no longer be regulated by site plan control.
5. Transparency and protection from unethical developers
To address the difficulties Ontario homebuyers and renters face, proposed amendments to the New Home Construction Licensing Act would introduce new consumer protection laws. If the Act is passed into law, these new protections would fine unethical builders and vendors that cancel projects unfairly or terminate purchase agreements. Under this proposed amendment, financial penalties will double from $25,000 to $50,000 per infraction and would retroactively apply to contraventions that occurred on or after April 12, 2022. Ontario would also become the first province in Canada that uses funds from these penalties to compensate affected homebuyers and renters.
6. Investing in the improvement of the Ontario Land Tribunal
Proposed changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act would help the Ontario Land Tribunal increase its efficiency. The proposed changes would speed up proceedings, resolve cases faster and streamline the administrative process. The Ontario Land Tribunal would, with these changes, prioritize cases that meet certain criteria, establish service standards, and clarify the Tribunal’s powers to dismiss appeals and ordering the payment of legal costs.
The Act, if passed, will fundamentally alter the processing, alteration, and implementation regimes of land use planning in Ontario. With a goal of introducing 1.5 million homes in Ontario by 2031, the provincial government claims that the Act will effectively address Ontario’s emerging housing crisis. To that end, the province is pushing for the Act to become law by Summer 2023.
Merovitz Potechin LLP will continue to monitor these legislative changes and will provide updates to our readers as they are released.
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